Monday, December 6, 2010

In Ourselves We Trust (Everyone else has to earn it!)

"It's easy to write everyone else off, harder to be responsible for your own judgments about who is and isn't worthy of your trust. It's harder still to tolerate the uncertainty and vulnerability that come from making such moment-to-moment judgments."

The words above could easily have been written or said by me in the months, even years following D-Day. I had trusted and I'd been screwed. And not just by my husband's cheating. At the same time, I'd had a friend betray my trust. Then my mother, who had spent most of my adolescence in an alcoholic fog, went and died on me – just when she and I were finally learning to forgive each other. How dare he! How dare she! How dare all of them!
I was furious with the whole lot of them for letting me down. And it was far easier to direct my anger outward – look what you've done to me! – than really examine the truth, which was that I'd never been very good at protecting myself. That I had a lifetime of trusting people who showed me repeatedly that I shouldn't trust them. But I would simply ignore that part of them that wasn't trustworthy -- that part that I'd seen lie to other people. Or betray other people. Or even, in some cases, betray me. I would quiet that voice in me that pointed out that these people couldn't be trusted, couldn't be counted on. And instead, I would blindly believe in them.
And then? know the rest.
What's amazing to me about that opening quote is that it wasn't spoken by a betrayed wife or betrayed husband. It was uttered by a war veteran, dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder. 
The thing with focusing our anger outward, at blaming everybody else for what happened, is that it defines us as victims. It takes away our power.
And it leaves us vulnerable to being betrayed again.
If we insist on others taking care of us, we relinquish responsibility for what happens to us. 
We get betrayed? Well, what did we expect? People can't be trusted, we decide. Then we go ahead and trust them anyway. Or perhaps, we don't trust anyone. Either way, we're not discerning. 
BUT. If we take responsibility, if we insist on only trusting those in our lives who have shown us repeatedly and over time that they can be trusted, we're far less likely to be blind-sided again. We're far less likely to "forgive" until we've seen hard evidence that the person seeking our forgiveness has done the tough work of figuring out why they hurt us in the first place. We're far less likely to overlook things that indicate untrustworthiness. He cheated on his last wife?  He cheated on his taxes? He short-changed the store clerk? He lied to his children about why he was late for their birthday party? He makes excuses to his boss for late proposals. Each and every time someone indicates they aren't trustworthy, our radar should send a clear message to our brains...which should inform our hearts. As a friend of mine says, the distance between our brains and hearts can be the longest 18 inches there is. And we should protect ourselves until we see, clearly and consistently, that he's taking responsibility for his actions and that his word means something.
It's contrary to how most of us think. We tend to trust until we're shown evidence that he can't be trusted. Thing is, in hindsight, most of us were aware of evidence. We just chose to ignore it. Or downplay it. Or assume that it didn't apply to us. (I know he cheated on his girlfriend but what he and I have is special. M'mmm...right.)
If there's one thing almost all Betrayed Wives Club members agree on, it's that we wish we'd trusted ourselves.
But it's not to late to start.

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